“You mean to tell me you only had a hundred in your graduating class?”
His look of incredulousness causes me to smile, smugly. This time I decide against correcting the mistake. For now I will let him believe that it was the entire high school, not just one class I was referring to. It wouldn’t be worth it. In fact, it may cross-wire the inner workings of his preconceived notions, causing a mental explosion and, at worst, a longer conversation than I am currently interested in.
Eventually he may find out the true facts. He may find out that I spent the first few (near) decades of my life without a stop light within a hundred mile radius. He may find out that my father was my wife’s father’s teacher in high school, that our homecoming king and queen were a twin brother and sister (who later became my sister-in-law) and that I grew up not knowing that radio isn’t fuzzy (at best). It’s okay if he finds out though, I’ve had those conversations before, and they can be awfully entertaining.
It is discussions like these that have gradually informed me that I am different. Not different like how my younger brother used to attempt to label me, referencing buildings with padded walls. Different as in not like 99.9% of the free world.
It shocked me at first. I walked into a class at the university my first day at college and realized that the course I was taking had more students enrolled in it than K-12 back home. I soon discovered that in the ‘real world’ you have to ‘meet new people,’ a previously foreign concept. It took a while to understand that I could eat fast food any day I wanted, troll anonymously through public places and that I wasn’t going to see my teacher later at church, and then at the store… and then at the Friday night ball game.
This may sound Amishish, but it most definitely isn’t. It’s Alamo, actually, a town literally and ideologically isolated from the urbanized world. A place where this psychological disconnect serves as a preservation ingredient for now rare qualities such as integrity, trust and belonging. A community where the often misused ‘everybody knows everybody’ catch phrase is absolutely, without a doubt, true. Sure, this town numbered in less than thousands may be ten or so years behind when it comes to fashion and pop-culture, but it is also fifty years behind in morals and values.
And to some crazy people, this is a good thing.
It took me a while to decide if this unconventional upbringing was a hindrance or stimulant to my success in life. Now that I am (maybe) finished with my higher education and into my career field, my conclusion is that the answer is both.
Growing up with that sort of interconnectedness lends itself to a lot of pats on the back and ‘attaboys.’ In school, it is usually more difficult to fall behind than it is to stay up with your studies. You are a special individual. You are loved and you are needed.
However, leaving that environment can be very difficult when the real world hands you a number and tells you to stand in line. The result can be frustration and loneliness, and the syndrome does have its victims. What follows is a temptation to move back home, but you know that there is nothing there for you anymore. No jobs, no colleges and almost no one between 18 and 25.
But if, instead, you stay close to those you grew up with, find new friends and bring them close, and trust the values you learned in your adolescence, you may find that you have just what you need to stand out in a very crowded world. You won’t be guaranteed success, but instead of being one in a million, you might be one in a hundred.
“Yeah, only a hundred. Crazy, huh?”
Samuel L. Lytle is an aspiring Civil Engineer and Freelance Writer. He currently lives in Reno with his wife Tiffany and his son Jason. He recently released his first book, Gold Stars, which is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble as an eBook. You can learn more about his writing projects at http://www.samswritingblog.com.